By Carlo Versano
More than a year after the first reports that celebrity chef Mario Batali had a history of sexually harassing and assaulting women, his vast Italian food empire is looking to turn the page. Last week, Batali's partners bought him out of his stake in what was formerly known as B&B Hospitality, the successful restaurant group he ran, while he also reportedly sold off his share in the popular Eataly chain. On Wednesday, Eataly North America CEO Nicola Farinetti confirmed to Cheddar that the company, which Farinetti's father founded in Torino in 2007, was in the process of acquiring Batali's minority stake.
Batali had not been involved in the day-to-day operations at Eataly for two years, Farinetti said, but his alleged behavior and the headlines surrounding his #MeToo reckoning did impact the business, the CEO acknowledged.
The Italian grocer-restaurant-cooking school has been expanding, most recently with an outpost on the Las Vegas strip that opened in December. Because an Eataly location requires a huge footprint ー about 40,000 square feet at minimum, Farinetti said ー in an area with a lot of foot traffic, the process of expanding isn't as fast as opening a typical restaurant or grocery store. Farinetti described the food emporium for those unlucky enough not to have sampled its gelato or prosciutto offerings: "one big place where you can shop, eat, or learn high-quality food at an affordable price."
"It's one big exercise about high-quality food," he said.
Eataly benefits from three pillars of its business ー its Italian market, its cooking school, and its various restaurants. Its latest restaurant, Manzo, puts an emphasis on beef with the feel of an old-school Italian butcher shop and has been packing in diners in both New York and Vegas.
People come to Eataly usually for thing ー meat, fish or pasta, maybe ー but there are some die-hards willing to brave the crowds (and higher prices) to use it as their main grocery store, Farinetti said.
Like other grocers catering to affluent clientele, Eataly is focusing on sustainability and sourcing, according to Farinetti. "You need to know what you put inside of your body."
Farinetti left Cheddar with one piece of food wisdom from the old country: "If there's chicken in the pasta, it's not Italian."
For full interview click here.